Chapter 5: Find Your Own Way
As I said earlier, as the tie has some meaning for people in cold countries, applying a tilak can also have meaning, but without first looking into it, it is utterly dangerous and wrong to call it a superstition right away - you may not have given any thought as to why a tilak is applied. People mostly apply it out of superstition; however, there was some scientific reason when people applied it for the first time. Actually, tilak is applied on the forehead at the spot between the two eyes where the agya chakra, the third-eye chakra, is located. Even with a little meditation this spot gets hot; however, it cools down with the application of sandalwood. The application of sandalwood is a highly scientific technique, but now it is lost; people are not concerned with that science anymore. Now anybody goes on applying sandalwood whether he has any knowledge of the agya chakra or has ever done any meditation or not.
It is strange to find people wearing ties in hot countries. Wearing a tie can have a scientific basis in cold countries, and similarly, a tilak has a scientific meaning for one who meditates on the agya chakra because sandalwood cools that spot. Meditating on the agya chakra, stimulation occurs and heat is created in that area - and it needs cooling down or else it will harm the brain. But were we determined to remove the tilak altogether, we would of course take it away from those who are wearing it pointlessly, but we would also be removing it from the forehead of the poor guy who may have applied it for his own reason. And if he won’t remove it, we will call him superstitious.
What I am saying is that there is no way you can determine what is superstitious and what is not. Actually, the same thing can be a superstition under one condition and scientific under different conditions. Something which might appear to be scientific under a certain condition, may appear unscientific under a different set of conditions.
For example, in Tibet there is a practice of taking a bath once a year - which is quite scientific, because there is no dust in Tibet and, being in a cold climate, people do not sweat. So they don’t need to bathe. Taking a bath every day would simply harm their bodies; it would cause them to lose much body heat. And how are they going to replace that heat? It could prove very costly to stay uncovered in Tibet. If man were to keep his body uncovered for a whole day, he would need forty percent more food to replace the calories lost. In a place like India, if a man goes about without clothes he is revered as a renunciate. Mahavira was sensible: he remained naked - and in a hot country like this, the more the heat leaves the body, the cooler it feels inside. But if a follower of Mahavira were to arrive in Tibet naked, he would deserve to be admitted to a mental asylum. To appear in Tibet like this would be absolutely unscientific, stupid. But that’s how it always happens.
When a Tibetan lama comes to India, he never bathes. Once I stayed with Tibetan lamas in Bodh Gaya. They were stinking so badly it was a torture to sit near them. When I asked why they were like that, they replied, “We follow the rule of bathing only once a year.” This is where I make the distinction between superstition and science. That which is a science in Tibet is a superstition in India. Here, these lamas are stinking without realizing their bodies are perspiring heavily and that there is much dust all around.